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Grow your own tea garden! Discover the best herbs to plant for a modest herbal tea garden. Easy to grow on a windowsill or in a garden bed, homegrown herbs yield a much more flavorful, fragrant, delicious tea—plus, herbs bring so many healing benefits, from calming anxieties to improving sleep. Enjoy this easy, enjoyable way to connect with nature!
At some point, you’ve probably had bland, tasteless tea. This is likely due to either the herbs or the method used to make it—both solvable issues! Let’s start with the herbs …
Why Plant a Tea Garden
Delicious Taste: When it comes to planting an herb garden for tea, homegrown herbs—such as mint, lemon balm, and chamomile—will be more potent than anything you could buy in store store (which is often grown in hothouses which produce less flavor).
Healing Powers: So many herbs have natural healing benefits. For example, plants such as lemon balm, mint and chamomile have been usd to relieve stress and regulate sleep. The study of herbal medicine goes back thousands of years to the Sumerians who usd tea infusions to treat inflammation, congestion, and other ailments. Traditionally, apothecaries carried herbs or healing, and this was the start of modern medicine. Besides the herb’s medicinal uses, it’s simply a wonderful, nurturing experience to both prepare and drink your own homegrown herbal tea!
Easy to Grow: It’s one of the easiest gardens to grow! You only need a small space to grow herbs for steeping tea. You can grow outdoors in a small garden bed, on a balcony, in containers, or on a windowsill. Almost all “tea plants” grow easily throughout North America. They are hardy perennials (up to -20°F).
Fun and Relaxing: If you grow multiple herbs, it’s fun to blend different herbal teas and experiment. Imagine a mix of chamomile, lemon balm, and lavender! The heavenly scents of many herbs is so pleasurable on its own! Plus, you can use your herbs in so many other ways, from kitchen dishes and herbal vinegars to herbal soaps and bath soaks to healing tinctures.
Mint, of course, comes in many varieties. Peppermint leaves (M. x piperita) are the best for tea, in our opinion, and make a refreshing iced tea, too. If you grow mint, note that it can become invasive; contain in its own bed or pot or just watch closely! Learn all about growing mint!
Lemon balm belongs to the mint family, too. It really does have lemon-scented leaves and makes a soothing evening tea It’s listed for zones 4 and 5, and less hardy than other mints. A rooted cutting will overwinter indoors.
Chamomile has small, daisy-like flowers that have long been used in Europe for tea. The tea is earthy with hints of apple and floral sweetness. It has a light, palatable taste that most people favor.
Rose petals tea can be made from any fragrant rose variety that’s been grown organically. Gather petals when the blooms are just past their peak. Garden.org states that, “Rosa rugosa is one that’s recommended for both petals and hips because it’s a fragrant, pest-free rose that doesn’t require spraying. Rose hip tea is red, with a tart lemon-orange flavor, and is a source of vitamin C. Cut slits in plump hips to speed drying and crush them slightly before brewing tea.”
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla) is has a strong lemon flavor, closest to a lemon oil. This woody shrub prefers full sun and a light, well-drained soil. It’s hardy only in zones 10 and 11.
With Bee Balm, another member of the mint family, both the colorful flowers and the leaves can be used to make a flavorful tea that tastes of citrus and spice.
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) produces seeds that lend a warm, citrusy flavor to tea.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a member of the mint family and has a lemon-mint flavor. Note: Pregnant women should avoid drinking catnip tea.
Sunflower seed hulls can be blacked over a dry cast-iron frying pan and add to teas for a hearty flavoring. This was a favorite practice of Native Americans.
Lemon verbena has the strongest lemon flavor. This woody shrub prefers full sun and a light, well-drained soil. However, it’s only hardy in zones 10 and 11. Elsewhere, grow it in a planter and winter it indoors.
How to Plant Herbs for Tea
Whether you plant in a garden bed or individual pots, herbs need at least six hours of sunlight a day. They need soil that drains well or pots with drainage holes. Outside, we often use herbs as companion plants around the border of a vegetable garden, but you could also create your own corner herb garden. Inside, if you grow through the winter, you’ll need a grow light.
If you’re growing in pots, they need to be at least 10 inches in diameter. Fill each pot one-third full with Potting Mix, place each herb in a container so that the top of the root ball is about an inch below the rim of the pot (to avoid overflow when watering), and add more potting soil to cover the plants roots. Tamp soil so it’s firm and water in well. A month after planting, fertilize.
When it comes to herbs, keep harvesting and the herb will growing and not flower (and go to seed). Harvest in the mornings after the dew dries and before it gets too hot.
For leafy herbs such as mint and lemon verbena and thyme, never harvest more than a third of the plant at one time. You may then continue growing the plant and then harvest again and again.
For floral herbs such as roses or chamomile or lavender), we harvest when the flowers are in bud, as that is when the aromatic oils are the most concentrated. When you harvest, use a sharp pair if scissors and put down to the next set of leaves.
If you’re making tea with fresh herbs, gently wash under water and then smash the leaves with a spoon to release their oils before adding straight to your tea. This is generally how we make tea in nice weather.
If you’re drying the leaves, especially for the dormant months, gently wash and dry the leaves, either upside down or spread the stems on trays in a warm, airy place and turn them twice a day. When they’re dry and crumbly with no hint of moisture (4 to 8 days), gently strip off the leaves, buds or flowerheads and store them in airtight jars or containers. Don’t forget to label! See these four ways to dry leaves and flowers.
How to Brew Herbal Tea
Ready to brew? We recommend investing in an infuser that can be placed in a teacup. Some teapots have built-in strainers as well, which tend to come in handy but can be a bit more costly. You can use fresh herbs or dried herbs; dried herbs are more potent. Here is a simple way to brew herbal tea.
3 teaspoons freshly picked herbs or 1 teaspoon of dried herbs
1 cup hot water
Boil water. Add fresh or dried herbs to an infuser and place in a teacup. Pour hot water—not boiling—over the herbs, and cover the cup to keep in aromas. (It’s recommended to pour hot rather than boiling water to best preserve the potency of the plants.)
Steep fresh herbs for up to 10 minutes, dried herbs 4 to 6 minutes—or adjust to how strong you like your tea. Remove the infuser and serve.
1. Feel Good Tea Recipe
This is a great tea for anyone suffering from allergy symptoms. Both echinacea and licorice are said to cure an irritated throat. The delicate, bitter taste of licorice will wake you up in the morning! You may certainly replace any of these herbs.
Boil 2 cups of water.
After the water has boiled, pour it into a pot and add 1 tablespoon of echinacea, 1 teaspoon of dandelion root, and 1 teaspoon of licorice.
Cover the water and herbs and let simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
If you have a basket or small metal strainer, rest it on top of a mug or tea cup and pour the tea through, discard the remaining herbs after.
Last for personal taste, add a heaping teaspoon of honey!
2. Minty Tea Recipe
Once you start growing mint, you’ll have a lot of it! So, it makes sense to make this minty tea recipe. (See 12 more uses for mint!)
3 tablespoons peppermint leaves
1 tablespoon catnip leaves
1 tablespoon rose petals
1 tablespoon lemon verbena leaves
First, dry the herbs as described above. Pour boiling water over the herbs. Cover and let steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Sweeten with honey if desired!
If you want to discover and purchase these herbs and others, try your local health food store. Or, start your own herbal garden!
Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprise that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann